Friday, 24 April 2015

Exploring Youtubers' Accents

Hello there!
As an introduction to an upcoming blogpost series in which we are going to be exploring some Youtubers' Accents, this post presents the perspectives from which it is interesting to talk about youtubers' accents in CuriousEnglishOnline. Among other things, today we will cover: (1) why English learners should watch native speakers on YouTube and how can it help them to improve greatly, especially when finding and creating an Identity in a Second Language; and (2) why YouTube is a very convenient tool from the point of view of accent and language in general observation and study. To top it all, I am going to tell you how you can participate in this blogpost series!
  It is needless to say how big YouTube has become these days and to how many people it has become their "new TV." I believe the topic of YouTube being a huge platform has been well covered in other blogs, magazines and even television, but it could be as well helpful for both, users and non-users of this social media, to highlight some of the reasons why YouTube might be the future of language learning. Particularly, in my opinion, those who can benefit the most from watching native speakers' youtube videos are foreign language learners, i.e. people learning a language without an easy access to its native speakers. 

  So, going straight to the point, the first reason why YouTube is really helpful in these cases is youtubers' uploading schedule. You may have a native speaker friend who is living in your country, even in your city, but you probably will not be able to listen to or be with him/her for hours and hours to get the amount of input required to improve in the language you are learning: everybody has a life! On the contrary, YouTube is an immense arsenal of videos from which you could get as many hours a day as you need in your target language. Most youtubers, at least those with big numbers of subscribers, have a very strict uploading schedule; some of them even do daily vlogs! Just remember this is for you to take full advantage of watching videos but it never should be a substitute for real and good quality in-person conversations.
  The second reason is what I am going to call "real backgrounds." When you are watching a private youtube channel (meaning it is not a sponsored channel, which can be similar to any programme on TV) you are seeing the reality of that person's background. Although you are watching a single person's channel, all of us are involved in a specific society and if you are a bit of a curious observer, you can catch some cultural aspects of the country this youtuber is from, native expressions, specific vocabulary for different situations, etc. The difference between YouTube and TV, for example, is that TV is full of prejudices and false topics: the best way to learn customs and traditions is observing people in real life, unprepared and unscripted. 
  This genuineness that we can find in youtubers because of their unscripted videos leads us to the third reason: the possibility of modelling youtubers' accents. Apart from just pure curiosity and interest in exploring different accents, this is the other reason I decided to do this blogpost series. In my personal opinion, and as I have mentioned before in previous blogposts, modelling accents of native speakers is what help learners take their learning process to a higher stage. Youtubers can without a doubt help in this: since they are portrayed as real people, they generate much empathy and they seem much more approachable to their viewers than celebrities on TV or films, and thus, they can be a great choice to imitate and model phonetically. It is always easier for humans to imitate or learn something from a person we like or with whom we can feel identified than from somebody that does not attract us in any way.
  Regarding language and, especially, accent research, watching native speakers on YouTube provides us with a huge base of information about language change, vocabulary and saying "trends", real updated pronunciation, and the list goes on. The difference between studying or investigating an accent through books and through YouTube is essentially those things: a book can describe you how "secretary" is pronounced differently depending on the accent but it is never going to be as accurate as the sound of its pronunciation, to which, thanks to the Internet, everybody has access nowadays. Another thing to bear in mind when watching TV or films is that actors/actresses, presenters, etc. are often asked to slightly or completely change their accent for various reasons, which usually results in what is called a "standard accent". This proves that those two might not be the best sources to study spontaneous language, as well as to practice your listening skills if you want to both, understand and sound like a real native speaker.
  Lastly, the way I am going to describe these youtubers' accents is by picking youtubers from various places of the world and talking about the accent from that place in general, at the same time as mentioning the way they sound in particular, including examples from some videos and so on, something similar to the way Alan Carr's accent and Estuary English were described in a previous post. Since the YouTube community is so broad I hope you can help me pick some youtubers! Or the other way around: if you are interested in a quick review of an accent in particular, you can let me know and I will write about it and exemplify that accent by looking for some youtuber that speaks in it. For this purpose you can simply leave a comment below or tweet me with the hashtag  #YoutubersAccents (twitter: @CuriousEnglishO)!

That is all for today's post, have a nice day!

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